For the second consecutive week, Kyle Busch shows up at a NASCAR Cup Series track as the defending race winner, and though the Joe Gibbs Racing driver is till winless this season, he arrives at Phoenix Raceway for Sunday’s FanShield 500 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) looking to continue a positive upswing after a rough couple early season outings.
The reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion has finished either first or second in the last four races at the Phoenix one-miler, and this weekend, he is the defending winner of both the weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series races.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota enters Sunday’s race ranked 19th in the championship standings, throwing out the 2015 season when he was injured, this is the lowest he’s been after the first three races of the season since his 2005 rookie campaign (22nd after first three races). But Phoenix certainly presents an optimum opportunity to reestablish his championship game.
Busch has won two of the three races since the one-mile Phoenix track was “re-envisioned” with a facelift and new configuration in late 2018. In total he has made 29 series starts at Phoenix posting three wins (2005, 2018, 2019), 11 top fives and 21 top 10s. His 1,190 laps led is second only to nine-time Phoenix winner Kevin Harvick’s 1,595 laps out front.
Last spring, Busch led 177 of 312 laps en route to a healthy 1.259-second win over JGR teammate Martin Truex Jr. His win a day earlier in the Xfinity Series race marked the largest margin of victory in track history – 3.025-seconds ahead of Truex’s younger brother, Ryan Truex.
Busch was optimistic his first top-10 finish of the season last week at California was a positive sign of better days ahead. “Guys are doing all they can, I know along with everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development),’’ Busch said Sunday at Auto Club Speedway. “I appreciate all the hard work. We just have to get a little bit better. We finished the end of last year so strong, I don’t know what we’re missing here. Obviously, it’s a little bit of something here and maybe a little bit of something in a few different areas, but overall a good car today.’’